Say What?

This week’s networking event was ModSocial. The group meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month at Refinery Nashville from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Founded by Kirsty Hughan, of Seamless Marketing, and Suki Mulberg Altamirano in 2014, Mod helps women be authentic and confident and encourages others to do the same. Mod is short for Modernist, Modification, and Modulation. This month’s Social featured speaker and life coach Chiara Sulprizio, Ph.D.

ModSocial 1

Kirsty Hughan and Me 🙂

The format of ModSocial is very laid back and conversational. After a brief time of networking, the event begins with everyone standing in a circle to introduce themselves. Just hearing the passionate pursuits of this mighty group of women is inspiring. I can’t help but think, “I want to be like that when I grow up!” It’s also nice that the group doesn’t focus on one industry so there is a great mix of fields and roles represented in the group, creating terrific networking opportunities. Once the introductions were done, we all listened to Chiara speak about communication. I’ll summarize the points of advice she offered for being better, more effective and authentic communicators. These can apply to both work situations as well as personal. The ability to communicate well is easily the most critical part of my role at ICG so my ears were perked.

The Practical Woman’s Approach to Communication

Presented by Chiara Sulprizio, Ph.D.

ModSocial 3

Chiara Sulprizio, Ph.D.

Effective communication is a skill that must be practiced over time in order to be stellar at it. It’s just not something that we were innately born to do well. Before we can make efforts to be better communicators, attention should be paid to the message we want to express, what we want the receiver to hear, and the result we are aiming for from the communication. Chiara offered a 4-step process to help us find our voices and have the things we say be substantive and true to ourselves.

Step 1 – Cultivate a Practice Mindset

By keeping the drive to be a better communicator at the forefront of your mind, it will impact every conversation you have. In the 24 hours since hearing this speech, I’ve entered every conversation with more mental purpose. Instead of just saying words, I am focusing on the message I am conveying.

Step 2 – Actively Create Opportunities to Practice Communication

The take away I have from this step is to seek ways to practice communicating every chance that you can. The environment of the communication isn’t as important as the consistent effort we put in to being better at it. Chiara made a great point that we shouldn’t wait for those bad or uncomfortable conversations to start practicing how to make them go better.

Step 3 – Write

By writing every day, an improvement in your verbal communication will manifest. I started this blog as a class project but the more that I delve into the message I want to express, I can definitely see the benefit of writing those thoughts out. The act of writing forces me to be more organized and thoughtful about the content of my messages. Chiara offered some additional advice in that creating a 3-point bullet list for the conversation (especially if they are difficult), will help you keep focus and stay on target.

Step 4 – Draw on Others as a Resource

Is there is a speaker, thought leader, or colleague who’s communication style you admire, find ways to observe their style in action. Watching videos of them in action and taking notes will assist in emulating their style. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery!

After her speech, we broke into groups of three to role play on various communication situations. I had the pleasure of working with Brooke Shippee and Chiara’s mom, Eva. Through the role play, we investigated that sometime we respond in ways that we immediately don’t agree with or are uncomfortable with, and that there are ways to deliver a negative message so that it doesn’t come across as too aggressive. Even in the role play, I had trouble not responding with “I’m sorry” to a request that I was supposed to turn down.

I hope this post is helpful if communication is an area in which you struggle. I will certainly be focusing on these steps as I go through my day in an effort to exhibit communication prowess!

ModSocial 2

Recapping What We Learned

Stay sassy,

SS

User Story Workshop

Last week I attended a Nashville Girl Geek Dinner workshop for the first time. My initial goal for attending was as a reconnaissance mission because I wanted to know more about the forum and the audience size of the workshop. You see, every month a different company sponsors the GGD and Ingram is sponsoring the July event and have asked me to be on the speaker panel. This is HUGE for me because I have a fear of public speaking. However, talking in front of groups is becoming a prevalent part of my job and I don’t want to turn down good networking opportunities because of a fear that I could probably become comfortable with if I put some effort into it. Part of that effort is to say, “yes” to things like being on a panel without giving myself time to get nervous about it. When I realized that the workshop was on “How to Write Effective User Stories”, I knew that it was for me because user stories come up often when talking to developers about new functionality for the system.

What’s a user story, you ask? Thanks to the workshop, I can break it down for you.

A story is essentially a person with a problem but a user story takes the person and the problem and adds the benefit that the user wants to achieve. User stories come up a lot when talking about agile methodologies on developer teams because a well written user story tells a developer, in everyday language, how the system should function to proceed with coding. User stories can be written using a basic formula to tell explain the “who”, “what”, and “why” of the change being requested.

“As a user, I want to do something, so that I gain this benefit.”

The user story we had for the workshop went like this, “As a business owner, I want a workshop so that I can express my ideas to developers.”

User Story Whiteboard

Workshop Objectives

Good user stories meet the criteria of the INVEST mnemonic.

  • Independent – the story is a single entity of work and is not dependent on another user story
  • Negotiable – can be changed or rewritten as needed
  • Valuable – provides value to the user
  • Estimable – the time to complete the story can be estimated
  • Small – the work to achieve the story can be completed in a sprint
  • Testable – there are ways to verify the success of the story by way of acceptance criteria

    User Story Card

    My Efforts

Once we had an idea of what a user story was and how to write them, we were presented with a real world scenario to create user stories for. David Blutenthal, the CEO and co-founder of an app called Moodsnap – “a music storytelling network that combines music and images to spur discovery and deeper connections” provided samples of user personas that would use the app. Based on these personas, the attendees created user stories to solve problems that a real user might have or want to do with the app. It was motivating to hear people around the room come up with different user scenarios and issues and detail those in the form of a user story that could be taken back to a developer team.

At the end of the night, I not only got a feel for how the dinners are formatted, but I also left with a skill that I can take back to work to help create shared understanding between our business owners and the developers about changes to the platform. I’d call that a productive evening!

Stay sassy,

SS

Welcome to Tech Sassy!

Hello Readers!

I’d like to welcome you to the Tech Sassy blog! Here I will use my personal journey of working in an information technology (IT) role to show how I navigated and became comfortable as a woman in a male dominated department and how I refused to compromise on my personality in order to play a valued role in the organization. My goal is that through the sharing of my experiences, I can be an inspiration to other women who struggle to find their authentic voices because I think we all have valuable things to say.

To give you some background on why I feel that I have authority in this area, here is how I came to be on an IT team:

Three years ago I was working on the customer facing team of the CoreSource platform at Ingram Content Group (ICG).  For those who aren’t familiar, CoreSource is a digital asset management tool for publishers. We store thousands of e-content files and the associated metadata for publishers and distribute them to hundreds of retailers (think of folks like Google, Apple, and Amazon – to name a few). I wasn’t really happy in the role and had been looking for new opportunities internally for awhile. When a role opened as a business systems analyst for CoreSource on the developer team, I jumped at the opportunity. The role was new to the team and I had no experience, but I had a lot of professional relationships within the company and the hiring manager had faith in me and offered me the job.

Initially, I struggled in many areas:

  • Learning a new technology language. (Jargon, jargon, and more jargon.)
  • Learning what a business analyst did and how to do it.
  • Having to create my own work processes without following the path of a predecessor.
  • Being the only woman on the team and in most meetings.
  • Showing bravery to ask questions that the team already knew.

My confidence was shaken at many times and I confess to not speaking up as often as I should. However, three years later, I feel that I have progressed well on the team and I have grown to treasure my unique role on it. I have been very fortunate to have co-workers and a manager who are all very patient with me and respect me as they would any male colleague. With that said, the struggles that women have in male dominated arenas is a hot topic and I’ve heard many stories (and have my own firsthand accounts) in which the suggestions of a female have been either bypassed entirely or not taken seriously when first raised. It’s hard not to take it personally when it happens, and I think that reacting with grace is the best tactic (also easier said than done).

My hope is that I can offer some real perspective on this topic. I will use this blog as a record of my professional development, share ways in which I am taking ownership of my career path through attending classes and networking events, and giving my honest feelings on the growth of the female position in technology industries.

Stay sassy,

SS